PHILADELPHIA – An entire offseason and two intrasquad meets have passed, marking the official start to a new docket for Temple Women's Gymnastics. On Sunday, six-year head coach Aarron Murphy and his squad will head down to the nation's capital to open the 2012 campaign when they compete at the George Washington Invitational.
The Owls, who are coming off a 10-15 year with a fourth place finish in the ECAC and a third place finish in the opening round of the USAG Championships, have added seven freshmen to a roster that saw only three competitors depart due to graduation last season.
“They're high-energy, they have a positive outlook on everything.” Murphy said. “When they're having their own team meeting, I often overhear them and they are always pumping the girls up telling them how good they did that day, even when things have to be fixed.
Four-year Level 10 competitor at Passaic Valley High School, freshman Alexis Arena comes to Temple after qualifying for regionals three times, looks forward to beginning her career in the Cherry and White this weekend in Washington, D.C.
“I think we're doing very well so far and it will be exciting to see how we do against the other schools that will be there,” Arena said.
First-year all-around Natali Ruzich feels the Owls can have a successful season for the mere fact that the team chemistry is very strong.
“It's really exciting to be on a team that's so close and always supportive,” Ruzich, a record-holder in multiple exercises at Pascack Valley Regional High School, said. “Coach Murph has made me feel very comfortable coming on to the team. I knew everyone on the team had a close-knit bond already and it's great to know I have a whole team that is going to be cheering each other on, especially at a big meet.”
Encompassed in the returning talent, sophomore Sylvie Borschel is back after having a breakout rookie season in all-around, leading her to being named ECAC Rookie of the Week three times.
Returning for a fifth year after sitting out last season, Katie Canning will make a comeback to the lineup for the Owls when the team competes in their second meet of the season when they go to Ursinus.
Coach Murphy has elected to hold Canning, a 2010 first team selection to the USAG All-America on balance beam, and senior Kaity Watson—a top-finisher in multiple events last season—out of the lineup in the squad's opening competition this weekend as a precaution to assure they are in top-condition for meets down the stretch.
In addition to the many newcomers, Murphy has brought in a new assistant coach with a very strong background built around success in Kim Parsons.
Parsons, the balance beam coach, while assisting with vault and floor for the Owls, joins the staff fresh off helping Massachusetts Institute of Technology take first place at the NAIGC National Championships in 2011.
With all the changes factored in, Murphy feels strong about the season ahead and is expecting a strong output from his team when they compete for the conference championship in late March.
“I want to be top two in conference,” Murphy said. “We've never done that and it's time for us to do it. I know that's a long way away. I know for the girls it's hard to envision that, but for myself and the coaching staff, we have to make sure we peak at the right time—which is the end of March—and I think we're going to be on the road to do that.”
Temple will visit many places for competition in 2012. Following Sunday's season-opening meet, the Owls will make stops at Ursinus and Rutgers before hosting the annual Ken Anderson Memorial Invitational on Feb. 5.
From there, the squad will compete on the road for the rest of the season. Prior to ECAC Championships, Temple will go to Illinois State, North Carolina, Cornell, Eastern Michigan and William & Mary. [Full schedule]
“I believe in these girls 100 percent, they've put forth the effort, all of the strength and condition—they're in shape to do it—we've put in the routine and numbers into practice, so really for the coaching staff's perspective, we're interested to seeing how they react to what we've worked on,” Murphy said.